Living in a Marsupial World
 
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The day of the film fest, we drove north from Mataranka and navigated our way into territory few tourists or even non-indigenous Australians have ventured. Once we found the Aboriginal community of Barunga, we were immediately assisted by a couple of men who led us to the festival, which was being held at the local schoolhouse. We soon learned that this was not only a film fest, but on a larger scale a cultural consortium where three of the local indigenous communities and their schools came together for learning, creativity, and celebration – we were told this was a truly rare event.


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Teaching the kids traditional dance
The day centered on the schoolchildren of each community, and when we joined in that afternoon the schedule held native song and dance demonstrations, health care information activities, sports, a choreographed hip-hop dance session, culminating in a screening of the films. Each school had worked with a set of filmmakers to create a work representative of and of value to each individual community to share with all. Our friends from Mataranka, Poppi and Lou, worked with a group of children to create a beautiful and thought provoking reenactment of a Dreaming Story. In this case, the story tackles the rather daunting question of “why do we die?” A little heavy for kids, but they did an incredible job and the Dreamtime Story was fascinating. (The concept of The Dreaming and Dreamtime Stories is a bit complicated for a quick blog post, but I recommend looking into it!)


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These girls happily asked Ben to take their picture
Everyone we met at the festival was absolutely kind, generous, and welcoming. Our experience in the community of Barunga could not have been more positive – a far cry from the often bitter blanket prejudices of some Aussies along the road, who had told us that Aborigines were all drunk, inconsiderate, money and land grubbers living off the taxpayer dollar (in so many words…). Rather, we left the Barunga community feeling light, enlightened, hopeful, and warmhearted, as if we had just left an enormous and loving family gathering. Thank you to the elders and the community of Barunga for opening your doors and your minds to us!



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